Self-Care January

I am a person of lists. And goals. I love lists of goals. Even lists of lists of goals. So when my friend @thenewchrissy declared that she would be doing monthly challenges for 2019, I jumped on board. We share a lot of interests and values but I modified her a few of her challenges to fit my needs.

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A lot of folks start the year with Dry January. It makes sense considering the overindulgence of the holidays but I wanted to start the year off on a different foot. With only a few weeks left in my maternity leave, I wanted to focus on just enjoying it and relaxing as much as possible before it was back to the grind. Thus Self-Care January.

Self-care on maternity leave (especially at the end of one without pay) is not spa days or days alone in self-reflection or girls weekends. It is a 30 minute bath at the end of the day with a magazine. It is going to the grocery store alone and walking the aisles very slowly. It is choosing not to fold the laundry and painting my toenails instead. It is getting outside everyday.

Having a reminder that I needed to make time for myself was really helpful as I faced going back to work. The prospect of going back to work has, in my experience, been worse than the actual return but it’s still painful.

It’s hard to be present even in the parts of my job that I enjoy (which is the majority to be fair) when I’m aware of all the things I’m missing at home. Is he smiling right now? Is he cooing? Is he thinking about rolling over? (Yes, yes and not yet.) I race home to divide my time between two amazing, demanding children. One who wants cuddles and to be nursed. Another who wants to read books or tell me things like “I ride in Dada’s truck” (it’s not fascinating but it’s still cute). On my first week back of work, Haines was sent home from daycare with a fever and I was ecstatic to spend the following day with him. With Austin safely tucked away at my mom’s, we watched a movie, took walks and played hard. I loved it.

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Still at the end of the day, I was ready for a moment of me. I went to bed at 8. Best self-care decision ever.

February’s challenge is Snail Mail which I’m really looking forward to. I used to be an excellent pen pal but now I’m incredibly inconsistent. This month is going to be an opportunity to get back into one of my favorite activities.

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Back to Work

This week, after twelve quick weeks, I returned to work. In America, my friends congratulate me on being eligible and able to take advantage of the full twelve week leave. The men I know all say, “Wow, that’s a long time.” My friends in other countries think it is ridiculous that twelve weeks is considered ample time to recover and return to work. As someone who hasn’t slept a full night in months, I’m inclined to agree.

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I know there are so many benefits to being working parent. I drink my caffeine hot and enjoy adult conversations on a daily basis. I use my brain and solve problems that make me feel accomplished, even if just for the workday. I have a career, a boss, a field that I enjoy. Oh and the biggest advantage- dual income!

But I will never stop feeling that I am missing it. Not just missing out but truly missing “it.” Missing the best parts of the day with my boys. Missing them grow before my eyes. Missing everything. Our time together is mostly sleepy breakfasts, wrestling in and out of pajamas, perilous dinners (Will he throw a tantrum because we dared offer him food?), nursing in the wee hours, and reading a quick bed time book to one while the other protests, ready to be rocked to sleep. It is not nothing but it is also not enough. Would anything be?

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Even though I like most things about my job and my life, going back to work also makes me feel like I am running back into a hamster wheel. Thirteen hours of each day will be spent at full speed. Up at 6 so we can all get dressed, get fed, get out the door. Work hard to leave the office by 5 to get home, to get everyone fed, dressed, in bed around 7 before sweet tiredness turns into angry tears. Clean up, prep for tomorrow, take a shower in the hopes that there will be a few quiet, relaxing moments before nursing the baby again and lights out at ten.

There is no perfect balance. No parent doesn’t wish to be home, long to be at work, can’t wait for the kids to go to bed, and joyfully wake them up. Our situation will find its normal but for a few days at least I am giving myself the space to feel all the feelings as they are.

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There is something extra sad about going back to work this time knowing we will not be doing this again. We’ve decided our family feels just right as a foursome so there will be no more pregnancies, no more newborns, no more back to works. All of which is the right choice for us but it is hard not to feel wistful about the end of this chapter.

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Postpartum Life

The weeks after baby’s birth are beautiful and totally brutal. There is the incredible joy of the new arrival. There are so many quiet moments caught up in watching this little life. Watching his little fists swat around in a robotic dance makes me laugh. One day soon he will see his hands and look at them in amazement. Another milestone arrived and on to the next.

At two and a half weeks, he sleeps for a couple hours at a time. Every day or so, he does a four stretch. Sometimes this is at night, sometimes it’s not. His face, completely relaxed, lips smushed in a pout is a heart wrencher but also puts me into a full sprint towards the nearest couch or bed. Total joy and totally tired.

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He eats well, something to be thankful for. I am happy when he is full and peaceful, but I do not wake up gleeful at 4 am when it is time to feed again. I don’t want to change his diaper although I am glad it is wet or dirty. I don’t want to uncover my own warm body to fetch him from his bed and fill him up, but I do. It is a gift for me to get to do so and my gift to him. Once we are cuddled up together and I halt his cries, then I remember the simple joy of our togetherness. Although not when he wakes up again 30 minutes later with an unknown complaint, cries of gas or needed comfort or more hunger.

I find myself considerably more patient with those in my life who wear diapers than those who speak in full sentences. I am almost as easily offended as I am tired. I have eaten so many sweets my teeth feel like they’re rotting.

I spend an unreasonable amount of time on the internet during our endless nursing sessions. The first weeks after birth are a tough time to be on social media so much and yet it is hard to avoid when you are desperately trying to stay awake at all hours of the day and night. I look at photos of friends and strangers adventuring across the world, across town, across their neighborhood. At once I am both jealous and totally content. I would love to be galavanting through another country or exploring a trail or cooking a divinely fancy meal.

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This meal will mostly sound like, “Taco! Haines taco! Haines bite!”

But I would also like to be here, just where I am, watching one baby sleep, knowing the other is also resting and will come home soon to blabber on about his day which I may or may not understand. “Haines paint. Elmo music! Mason (insert something unintelligible).” My home is warm in contrast to this rainy, chilly day. I’m sitting at a table I helped my husband make. In every direction I see photos of our family, art that tells the story of our lives.

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Cousin love

There is also a pile of laundry and a vase of flowers that need to be thrown out. I should have wiped the table before sitting down. There are remnants of Haines’ breakfast sticking my sweater to the wood. My breasts are sore and quite possibly leaking. My clothes don’t fit. I am almost always aware of my stitches and the discomfort that increases when I walk or stand for long periods.

Parenting is complicated. It is being thankful and a bit wistful all at the same time as you move between phases of life: childless to parent, baby to toddler, one child to two. But it is undoubtedly the best thing to happen to me. There’s no place I’d rather be.

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Turning 32: Acceptance, Love and Hope

In only a month I will be 32. Today I am in an unfamiliar city, which is pretty much my favorite thing in the world and I am enjoying it tremendously, despite having cried three times already for missing my baby.

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My boys without me

I am listening to two adorable baristas discuss giving up sugar. They are tiny, young, friendly and energetic. One is petite with a pixie look and a valley girl intonation. My 20-year-old self wouldn’t have tolerated her in conversation but completely envied her style. The other has an androgynous look and I am drawn to her smile instantly. My twenty-year old self would have followed her all around campus. I’m still eavesdropping.

But in a month I will be 32 which somehow feels more significant when I turned 30. When I turned 30 I was pregnant for the first time which overshadowed everything else. Two years later I am pregnant again, less overwhelmed by the enormity and more…surrendered? My life, in a long term think-about-the-future sort of way feels paused while I create new life, someone else’s life. My mind has shrunk- unable to take in much beyond my house and the people who live there. I know that since becoming pregnant two years ago I have not been as good of a friend as I once was. I forget birthdays and don’t return emails, never on purpose but simply because. 

I no longer write, travel or create crafts often- all of which are my favorite things. There is a half-finished gray knit hat in a plastic bin in my attic among piles of yarn waiting for me, hoping I will come back for it. But I don’t have the time or money (two things to enjoy traveling) or the energy (required of writing or crafting). Although I sometimes long to do one or many of these activities, mostly I don’t care. It’s become normal but in waiting Haines grow and become more independent, I have seen the light. It won’t always be like this. This is just a phase of life where I will do me, as best as I can do me, and this is enough even though it won’t look anything like before.

Normally in a new city I would be racing around, walking every street. Today I worked remotely, found amazing Mediterranean food, bought two books in the book store where I am now very unhurried. I am sipping tea from an actual teacup and saucer. The afternoon light is casting a gentle flow across old wood floors in the café and I’m admiring the energy of nearby baristas while I write.  

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This is a sign of my age right? When taking time to be slow is just as important as seeing the sights? Then again, bookstores have always been “the sights” for me. I am old enough to have only bought 2 books (it’s called living on a budget) but not old enough to know I should go ahead and buy all the books, because books are invaluable. 

I believe the new year really starts on your birthday. I always look to the new calendar year as a fresh start but birthdays are far more inspiring. So what do I want for my next year? What do I hope for 32?

I hope for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

I hope for calm in the face of chaos.

I hope to have a few moments like this one where I feel contented in everything, fully knowing that all is not perfect.

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Ten years of friendship

I hope to spend time with friends and have a few laughs. I hope to hold hands with my husband after the bab(ies) have gone to bed.

I hope to read a few good books and enjoy a few warm summer nights.

And if I am lucky, I hope to get a few good nights of sleep.

All in all, I think this could be a wonderful year.

 

Baby’s First Year Survival Tools

One of the things expecting mothers always panic about is all the things. You feel you need all the things! In reality, you won’t need half of what you end up with when you have a baby. A lot of people will try to give you things. You’ll most likely accept everything  thinking, how am I to know what I need? You don’t, so cut yourself some slack. I don’t know what you need either, but I do know what I used to get through HEB’s first year. If we have another baby we’ll probably need totally different things! But hopefully not because we’re not buying anything.

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Newborn hell (or 0 to 3 months):

I have to be honest, those newborn days that everyone (without a newborn) glows over… those are pretty intense. Even if you are not breastfeeding you may start to think, surely this is impossible! Horribly enough we all started off as extremely needy, up all hours of the night, feeding every 2 hours, adorable little babies.

  • Netflix– get it, gift it, don’t judge yourself for binging it.
  • Chicco Keyfit stroller caddy– We loved this for the ability to plop our carseat right in and start strolling without ever disturbing our sleeping babe. There’s also tons of storage underneath so I could throw his diaper bag in there. I preferred using this for grocery shopping (heavy things in the caddy, light things in a basket) rather than a cart when he was small.
  • A breastfeeding station- Find yourself a Boppy or a Brest Friend or whatever and keep it near your comfiest chair or couch. Near that fill a basket with granola bars or easy to eat snacks, your kindle or your TV remote and remember to bring water when you’re sitting down to feed. Two minutes in and you’ll suddenly remember you’re DYING of thirst.
  • Rock n Play– Haines slept in the Rock n Play for the first 4 months of his life and absolutely loved it. Admittedly though we never put the batteries in so it didn’t rock him on its own. I would reach out and rock him to sleep in the middle of the night if needed, but never used the actual function. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to stop.

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3-6 months:

This was a pretty tough time for me. I went back to work and Haines’ sleep had really gotten worse so the level of fatigue was high. At the same time though H started to interact with us. He was alert and playful. It really lifted me up.

  • Bouncy chair– This is something we didn’t know we really needed. It was a hand-me-down (as is everything else) and I wasn’t even sure why we would want it. Um… you want to carry this lightweight all over your house so you can get things done! This is what baby lays in while you cook dinner, go to the bathroom, type your blogs- all the important things.
  • Frozen meals- I had fixed some items in advance and my mom and Natalie also stocked my freezer as well. The first few weeks/months we were the beneficiaries of a meal train but that comes to an end well before the fatigue does. Having the world’s easiest meals on hand is very helpful. I also froze muffins to help me with my constant need to snack.
  • Ergo– We started out with a 2nd hand Chicco carrier which worked okay, but it was a huge upgrade when a friend gave us an Ergo. After a little while you start to want options for going out and having some sort of baby wearing device is a must. (Also, I tried a wrap and found it to be an enormous pain the tush.)

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6-9 months:

The first turning point! Everything was fun during these few months (minus sleep training and ear infections). Haines was excited for everything- food, Clara, being outside. There were also so many milestones during this time. He sat up, crawled and walked all between 7 and 9 months.

  • Kiddo food trays- I LOVED using these to make Haines’ baby food. I made all of his food at home which was much easier than I anticipated. When he napped on the weekend, I would dump all the veggies into a steamer before blending in our Nutri-bullet. Any blender will do. The only downside here- HEB moved on from purees pretty quickly. He wanted to feed himself!
  • Baby proofing- This turned out to be much more in depth than I would have expected. We had to get rid of several pieces of furniture that we deemed being too annoying with a baby to keep. If you’re going to try to limit your “No! Don’t touch that!” conversations than I will suggest going beyond outlet covers and cabinet locks. Every trash can in your house should have a heavy lid, your toilet paper should be moved near the ceiling and any knick-knacks resting within 3 feet of the floor should be moved. Probably just get rid of your blinds now.
  • Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes Musical Toy- For months this was Haines favorite toy. It could entertain him indefinitely. This is probably the only thing we ever tore up the house looking for.
  • Nursery rhymes- Start practicing now. This was the only way we could get perk up a cranky baby during diaper changes or going into his carseat.

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9-12 months:

This was the second turning point. We have a routine. We can mostly anticipate Haines likes and dislikes. He’s fussier and harder to console but also easier to distract. Children are weird.

  • Alphaprints book & The Itsy Bitsy Snowman are Haines two favorite books right now. They are guaranteed to lift his mood!
  • Bathmat– If your baby wants to crawl all around the bathtub then I recommend getting a non-slip bathmat for the tub. It has cut down on his falls tremendously and ours has a hook so it can hang on the shower to dry.
  • Spoutless sippy cup– Haines has struggled with all the other cups we’ve given him but took to this one right away! (Full disclosure: we still use a bottle most of the time, but this cup has helped a lot).

 

If you’re stressing about needing all the things, don’t. Get a carseat. Figure out a safe place for the baby to sleep. Buy a few diapers (and expect many more in gifts). Collect every hand me down you can. You’ll figure out the rest.

And remember, for better or for worse, this is only temporary.

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2018: New Year’s Resolutions

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I know I said I was sticking to a theme for the new year but let’s get real, I have a lot of goals for 2018. I’ve been reading all over the place that I shouldn’t have a lot of unattainable goals. Stick to goals you can truly impact and accomplish. These are a mix of goals I’d define as both stretch and within reach (maybe).

Personal Finances: For 2018 I hope to save $5,000. I had similar goals for 2017 but it turned out to be a much more expensive year than I anticipated. Guess what guys, paying for daycare- pricey. Also, if you’ve never had a baby before you probably don’t know how much babies cost. This is totally fair and I probably should have factored this in to my goals. Once someone told me that babies are cheap when they’re very little. Um… clearly you didn’t pay for formula, daycare or diapers.

And in reality, like most people we’re still learning how to be financially savvy. Tyler calls 2018 “The Year of Smart” and this definitely applies to our money. We want to make smart decisions. That’s pretty much all you can ask for. (Dang, this should really be my goal. But I want to save $5k!)

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Home: In the land of new baby, the first priority to drop is cleaning the house. This creates a constant cycle where we don’t pick up after ourselves and every 2-3 weeks I freak out because I can no longer tolerate the state of our home. Surely, there’s a better way to live.

So this year I just want to do some pretty basic picking up after myself. Tyler and I have starting washing our dishes and fully wiping down the kitchen after each meal. This may seem like adulting 101 but I feel like we’re relearning every aspect of life right now. We’re putting the laundry away the same day it got washed  and cleaning the bathroom on a regular basis.

Basically, it’ll take nothing short of a miracle to maintain this but I’m still holding out hope!

Professional Life: I wear several different hats in my role at work, because it is a role that constantly evolves. This is awesome as it allows me to be challenged but I often feel pulled in several directions and constantly worry about dropping one of the many priorities I am juggling. I think this is a pretty common experience for individuals who have just reached the point in their career where they’re truly challenged.

Now it’s just about being able to balance my priorities, learn some project management skills and advocate for myself. Sometimes you have to say- TOO MUCH! This is a goal I don’t expect to reach, just aim for. I’m growing, y’all.

Mama Life: The number one thing I want to do as a mom is be present. Yes, I want to be present as a friend, a daughter or a wife but being present as a mama is my number one. This is harder than I would have thought. Haines can be…boring. It’s not his fault- he’s a baby! He’s adorable to watch and he just started to ask me to read him books which makes my heart explode but sometimes I’d like to have a conversation that isn’t, “Don’t put that in your mouth!” or “What a big boy you are!”

So being present  is equally about being present when we’re together and taking breaks that allow me to focus on him. This weekend Tyler was off work. We took Haines to a party on Saturday where Tyler was primary baby watcher and Sunday I got to go to a coffee shop for two hours with Better Than Never Blogger, Chrissy. This little moments are what excites me to run back to my baby bubba.

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Haines after a run. 

Health: Almost everyone looks to the new year with a health goal. Tyler has started running which naturally has amped up my own fitness routine. We RAN 3.2 miles on Saturday (with breaks). Although I do have periods where fitness falls down the list of priorities, most of the time I feel pretty good about that area of my life.

Right now, it’s caffeine. Every since this baby entered my life, my soda intake has skyrocketed. I don’t drink coffee so this is my main fuel for life. No matter what I tell myself at the beginning of the week, by Sunday I’ve drank 3-4 Dr. Peppers. Pre-pregnancy I had one a week. I need to get back to that.

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Little Ol’ Me: There’s one last goal I want to keep in motion for 2018. For a long time, this has been in the forefront of my interactions but I’m not yet where I want to be. The goal is simple- communicate honestly, openly and regularly.

Don’t let things build up. Don’t sugarcoat unless absolutely necessary. Give of my authentic self whenever possible.

Goals:

  • Save $5k
  • Clean the house
  • Learn balance at work
  • Be present
  • Drink less soda
  • Communicate regularly and honestly.

When I lay it all out, it seems like a lot. I probably should have stuck with Tiny Adventures. Here we come 2018!!

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The Year of Tiny Adventures

Now we’re in 2018. It’s a brand new year and we’ll encounter brand new challenges that will be tougher and easier than keeping a baby safe and well from birth to 12 months. (So I hear.)

I’ve started to have a little more time to breathe now and it seems like my brain waves are firing a little faster (no guarantees). Tempted as always to create unrealistic goals for the new year, I’ve settled on a single idea.

(Okay, I’m lying. I have a lot of resolutions but I’m trying to ignore them. I want to just have a theme for my year instead of a lot of lofty goals that are unrealistic to set.)

I want to have more adventures, but to do so I need to see the adventure in everyday things. Haines is 13 months and I work on someone else’s schedule. Hiking Machu Pichu or snorkeling foreign seas aren’t in my near future. It can be hard to appreciate adventures in baby world. Haines primarily finds fun in eating leaves and other tidbits he finds on the ground. But to grow him and me we have to get out of the house.

Welcome 2018: The Year of Tiny Adventures

My goal is to explore Wilmington in a way that keeps me outside and interacting with others. These are the two things that maintain my sanity. That and the occasional baby break but sometimes that’s not an option.

January’s adventures include:

A trip to the Fort Fisher Aquarium– big news, we’re members now! Haines got a membership for his birthday and we plan to take advantage. His attention only held for about 30 of the 60 minutes we were there but I consider that a win.

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Wilmington Coffee Crawl– I don’t actually drink coffee but I like coffee shops and anything involving strolling a baby around downtown. I hope the weather holds out!

Also, I started using Peanut which I’m super intimidated by. Has anyone tried this? It’s like Tinder but it’s for Moms and is just to make friends. Wish me luck!

So, here we go- a little attitude change, a little planning and a lot of (tiny) adventures!